Image credit:Oasis Africa, Kruger Park 2010 World Cup African Safari
An expert on this subject recently addressed the Kalahari Conservation Society (KCS), saying, as reported in All Africa, "Properly administered hunting is not detrimental to wildlife populations. This is absolutely certain. Evidence is widespread and well-documented," ... Conversely, the speaker presented professionally gathered evidence that concentrated photo-safari activities - regardless of 'greenness' of individual operations - can have adverse, collective impacts on wildlife. Here's an example:
Patterson added that a recent study at a tourists resort of Xakanaxa criticised the government for lack of a proper management plan, after finding that 6,000 hectares of land had three up-market lodges and accommodation for 50 employees, two public campsites, two group campsites for mobile safaris, a commercial marina with 30 licensed boats, an airstrip, as well as 250km of roads with 300 vehicles on a busy day.The key element that can make either wildlife tourism model sustainable - photo safari or hunting safari - is 'proper administration.' It is of no use to ban hunting in favor of photo tourism for the sake of increased tourism revenues, or to avoid offending the anti-hunt crowd, only to drive out the shy cats, force nocturnal behaviors, disrupt feeding, and rut up the countryside.
The binary choice is a false one.
I see a parallel to what is happening in the Galapagos Islands, where wildlife tourism has pulled in the requisite hotels, food services and staff housing to the point where settlement is ruining the place. If you think that having a 'green' or sustainability certification for safari operations will make things right, and all guns should be kept out, you are missing the wildebeest for the lion. Both practices need to be regulated and the devil is in those details as always. The problem comes in when the revenue streams from photo safaris become so large that high density development becomes unstoppable.
In fact, because hunting and photography have to be separated physically, and because hunting is by definition requiring of much lower human densities (lest hunters accidentally shoot each other) a reasonable argument can be made that setting aside hunting-only preserves amidst the tourist-oriented lands will help keep photo-safaris and their attendant high impact infrastructures in check.
Note: I have gone on extended photo safaris in Africa and am a licensed hunter. I too see conservation value in both practices.